Do you ever wonder about the future? Will flying cars ever arrive? Are video phones here at last? Will the end of paper finally come?
Businesses can greatly benefit from knowing a little about future possibilities. At a time of great social and technological transition, understanding what might lie ahead can help businesses – like the Postal Service – prepare themselves to adapt.
Deutsche Post DHL, the logistics and delivery company, commissioned a study to look at the world in 2050. The study, Delivering Tomorrow – Logistics 2050, was prepared with the help of a firm of futurists and foresight experts. Through interviews with key experts, the study’s authors determined 14 key factors that could influence the future of logistics such as income growth and trends in trade regulation. Then, they investigated potential outcomes for these factors. The possibilities were combined into five potential visions of the future:
• Untamed Economy – Impending Collapse – World income grows rapidly, and globalization continues. The sheer pace of the growth threatens to strain natural resources. Logistics firms are critical for transporting goods through a logistics supergrid.
• Mega-efficiency in Megacities – People live in urban metropolises that have managed to solve many of the problems of dense urban growth such as traffic jams. Rural areas are left behind as economic activity becomes increasingly concentrated in these giant megacities, which are connected by logistics firms.
• Customized Lifestyles – A revolution in 3-D printing lets people make goods very near where they live. This allows for an incredible increase in customization and individualization. It also means that there is far less need to transport goods across the world.
• Paralyzing Protectionism – Globalization falters as countries retreat into protected regional trade blocs. Even the Internet splits apart. Technological development lags, infrastructure crumbles, and resource scarcity slows economic growth. Regional logistics champions carry goods, and customs clearance takes weeks.
• Global Resilience – Local Adaptation – Natural disasters, crises, and attacks make resilience and redundancy critical. Businesses use adaptable technology, such as production facilities that can turn off and on as needed. Redundancy is expensive so standards of living are lower. Trade is regionalized rather than global, and logistics firms focus on security rather than timeliness.
What do you think of these visions of the future? (Keep in mind the short descriptions above only hint at the full scenarios in the paper.)
What role will the U.S. Postal Service play?